After more than 100 years of existence, the Ladies Auxiliary of Branch 24 of the Royal Canadian Legion is disbanding.
The Cranbrook Legion made the news public in a Facebook post this week.
“It is with profound sadness that we say good-bye to the Branch #24 Ladies Auxiliary,” the post read. “For so many years, they have been a very important part of our branch. Their support over the years has been amazing. We will miss their presence at all our functions. We look forward to still seeing you ladies in the branch.”
The Ladies Auxiliary has been an important arm of the Legion since even before the end of the First World War. In November of 1917, requests were made for the for the formation of a returned soldiers group. At that point the Great War Veterans’ Association (GWVA) had formed about 90 branches across Canada, including ones in Nelson and Fernie. Dominion membership stood at over 25,000 members.
A Cranbrook branch of the GWVA was formed on December 11, 1917, and the Ladies Auxiliary created on January 21, 1918. Mrs. Annie Laurie was elected the Auxiliary’s first president, with Mrs. J.A. Genest as vice-president.
Above: Annie Laurie, 1868-1950. The first President of the Ladies Auxiliary, and Cranbrook’s first female City Councillor.
On January 24, 1918, the Cranbrook Herald reported:
“A Ladies Auxiliary in connection with the Cranbrook Branch of the G.W.V.A. was organized at a meeting held in the City Hall on Monday afternoon. Mr. C.H. Phillips opened the meeting and briefly explained the objects of of the auxiliary. On receipt of information from Nelson, Vancouver and elsewhere, with regard to auxiliaries that have been established for some time, the committee will proceed to draft rules and regulations.
In order that the auxiliary may complete its organization as rapidly as possible, the following officers were elected, viz:
“President, Mrs. J. [Annie] Laurie; Vice-President, Mrs. J.A. Genest; Secretary-Treasurer, Mrs. T.C. Phillips; Executive Mesdames W.G. Adlard, Dan Campbell, J. George, Walter Reed, George Smith and W.W. Wolfer.”
Annie Laurie would go on to become Cranbrook’s first female “Alderman,” elected to Cranbrook City Council in 1921, two years after women got the vote in Canada.
On July 16th, 1926, the members of the G.W.V.A. Cranbrook branch voted to wind up the affairs of the organization and join the Canadian Legion of the British Empire Service League.More than 200,000 members of the G.W.VA. joined with a number of other organizations under the umbrella of the Canadian Legion.
The current, and last executive, of the Ladies Auxiliary include President Betty Nakahara, Vice-President Melanie Dodgson, Treasurer Diane Burger, Secretary Bonnie Close, and Past President Leah Start. Bev Samson — Sergeant at Arms, and Tammy McDonald and Donna Downs are Executive Members.
“Over the years the LA has donated thousands of dollars to Branch 24. this year was no exception,” the Legion post read. “On Saturday December 19th, Betty attended the branch and presented President Edith [LeClair] their final donation of over $1,400. Thank you ladies for years of dedication to the Cranbrook Legion.”
With files from David Humphrey